When Daryl Morey assumed the role of Rockets general manager prior to the 2007-08 season, he inherited a roster built around Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming that had been unable to advance past the first round of the playoffs.
Even after Yao was forced into retirement with injuries that limited him to just five games between the 2009-10 and 2010-11 seasons, Morey managed to build a perennial contender in Houston.
Here are the most important moves that allowed Morey to acquire multiple superstars without the benefit of high lottery picks.
Feb. 19, 2009
Acquired Kyle Lowry as part of a three-team trade, sending Houston's starting point guard Rafer Alston to Orlando.
Feb. 18, 2010
Traded McGrady to the Knicks in a three-team deal, acquiring Kevin Martin and a 2012 first-round pick (Royce White was picked at No. 16).
Coupled with the injuries to Yao, the McGrady trade meant the Rockets had gone from two superstars to none in fewer than three years.
Morey did not tank and instead kept accumulating assets while remaining competitive. The Rockets finished over .500 in both 2010-11 and 2011-12 with a core of Luis Scola, Martin and a young Lowry.
Feb. 24, 2011
Acquired Goran Dragic and a 2011 first-round pick (Nikola Mirotic was selected at No. 23) for Aaron Brooks.
July 11, 2012
The presence of Dragic allowed Morey to trade Lowry to Toronto for Gary Forbes and a 2013 first-round pick.
Lowry became a star and a champion in Toronto years later but Morey was able to use the 2013 first-round pick acquired in the Lowry trade to finally land a star in his next major transaction.
Oct. 27, 2012
Acquired James Harden, Cole Aldrich, Daequan Cook and Lazar Hayward from Oklahoma City for Martin, Jeremy Lamb, a 2013 first-round pick (from TOR, became Steven Adams), 2013 second-round pick and 2014 first-round pick.
Martin had been Houston's leading scorer but Morey recognized the potential for Harden to become a transcendent offensive player for the Rockets.
July 7, 2013
Signed Patrick Beverley to a multi-year, free-agent deal. A diamond in the rough who had been playing in Europe, Beverley would make less than $1 million per season over the next three years while becoming part of Houston's rotation.
He would also become part of a mega-deal to land another superstar. We'll get to that later.
July 13, 2013
Signed Dwight Howard to a four-year, $88 million contract with an early termination option after the third season.
Howard was second-team All-NBA in his first season playing with Harden and Houston made it to the Western Conference finals in their second season together. The Rockets won 54 and 56 games in those two seasons.
But after slipping to 41-41 and losing in the first round in their third season together, Howard elected to leave Houston for Atlanta in free agency.
June 25, 2015
Drafted Sam Dekker (No. 18) and Montrezl Harrell (No. 32) in the 2015 NBA draft. Both players would be used to help Morey land his next superstar.
Feb. 23, 2017
Traded Corey Brewer and a 2017 first-round pick (No. 28) to the Lakers for Lou Williams.
Williams would also be used to help land the next superstar.
June 28, 2017
Here comes the next mega-deal. Morey traded Beverley, Dekker, Harrell, Williams and a 2018 first-round pick (No. 30) to acquire Chris Paul from the Clippers.
In their first season together, Paul and Harden led the Rockets to 65 wins and a trip to the Western Conference finals, where they lost to the Warriors in seven games.
If not for an injury to Paul during that series, the Rockets may well have won the title that season.
That would be Morey's best chance for a championship in Houston. After reports of a feud between his two stars became public the following season, Morey traded Paul in a last-gasp effort to win with Harden.
July 16, 2019
Acquired Russell Westbrook for Paul and four first-round picks. Later in the season, Morey went all-in with "small ball," trading center Clint Capela in a four-team deal and acquiring Robert Covington.
That style worked until it didn't. The Rockets finished fourth in the Western Conference and outlasted the Thunder in seven games before being bullied in five games by the eventual champion Lakers.
Morey stepped down after the season and we'll see how he plans to reshape the Sixers' roster.
His replacement in Houston inherits a landscape with both Harden and Westbrook under max contracts for at least the next two seasons and possibly three (both have $47 million player options for the 2022-23 season).